-- Avid golfers buy second homes in golf-course communities, and skiers flock to mountain resorts. Some developments are even geared toward polo players and private pilots. So why don't oenophiles have themed vacation-home communities?
Well, now they do, in some of the most celebrated — and surprising — wine regions on Earth.
Wine country has always been a popular vacation choice. Grapes tend to grow best in settings that are naturally beautiful, but wine country also evokes a life of carefree days and gourmet pleasures. Not so long ago, wine country vacations — and dream homes — were limited to a handful of ultra-desirable spots such as California's Napa Valley, Italy's Tuscany and France's Burgundy and Bordeaux regions. But wine production has exploded globally, and today there are wineries in all 50 states and virtually every country.
However, while there is plenty of cheap wine, there are not plenty of cheap wine communities. Buyers who hope to live the vintner's dream and envision their own labels might first experience sticker shock.
The newest wrinkle is the vineyard version of the golf community, combining home ownership with simplified involvement in winemaking.
"You can be involved as much or as little as you want," says Kristin Moses Murray of Vineyard Estates at the Kluge Winery in Charlottesville, Va.
Says Victoria King of Soda Rock Ranch in Sonoma County, Calif.: "Some owners want to get their hands dirty, while for others, their biggest decision will be picking their label."
Each wine development is different, but the typical model involves some on-site winemaking. Home buyers sometimes own a vineyard or a share of common vineyards. Some homes include an annual allotment of your own private label wine, and some charge extra. And many also have a laundry list of wine-centric events, from celebrity guest vintners to wine clubs and cooking schools.
A look at winery living destinations:
•California. The Ranch on Soda Rock (theranchonsodarock.com), just outside Healdsburg in the heart of Sonoma's famed wine country, is at the smallest end of the spectrum: a single luxury house with a small organic vineyard and a boutique winery. The property can be bought outright or in one-tenth shares for $300,000 apiece, which entitles each owner to five weeks' use and five cases of wine. At the opposite end is Trilogy Central Coast (trilogylife.com), a 950-acre "wine campus" within an hour's drive of more than 100 wineries. Plans call for more than 1,000 homes with prices beginning in the mid-$500,000s.
•Overseas. Castello di Casole (castellodicasole.com), set on more than 4,200 acres in Italy's fabled Tuscany region, includes a dozen vineyards and fewer than 30 opulent abodes all renovated from centuries-old farmhouses. Fractional shares (one-twelfth) range from about $367,000 to $747,000; whole ownership is about $4.7 million to $9.8 million. A more affordable alternative is the Algodon Wine Estates (algodonwineestates.com) in Argentina. The property also includes a golf course. Home sites, averaging 2½ acres, begin at $102,000.
•Southeast USA. Kluge's Vineyard Estates (vineyardestatesonline.com), near Charlottesville, Va., has 24 mansions on lots of 3 to 33 acres with price tags of $7 million to $33 million. Montaluce Winery & Estates (montaluce.com) in Dahlonega, Ga., has two-bedroom houses starting in the low $400,000s and three-bedrooms from $600,000. The homeowners do not have vineyards, but the property is adjacent to a working winery.